9:05. Aw, what a nice husband. Tough crowd!
9:06. "Skew toward the wealthy" vs. "Education and training." Well, I'm sold.
9:09. The economy is a tender topic. Someone asked Romney for help. Did he give them a dollar? No, it will take a different path. One with five different parts. Four million jobs with energy! And the best schools in the world! And small business! Mitt Romney hires people. So no, ladies, no dollar for you. Oh, and no abortions.
9:09. The Crypt-Keeper caught that trickle-down thing. Is Marlin Fitzwater still alive? Must be shitting a brick.
9:10. Governor Romney and Barack Obama agree.
9:11. Oh no, are we still doing the note-writing thing? Or was Romney just checking his nails?
9:12. Mitt Romney doesn't have a tax cut. On that scale. And Paul Ryan will be President, again. Now Obama's checking his nails. Bad idea to have a manicurist on site.
9:15. Aha, oil and gas are up -- but on private land! Ha ha, private wins. They'll give us all coal, but they'll wash it first, so it'll be clean, like the lettuce you buy in bags.
9:16. The battle of the tax cuts is very gentlemanly so far. Barack Obama's some socialist, huh?
9:17. Jim is having trouble telling the President to shut up.
9:18. He's having trouble telling Romney, too. No tax cut that adds to the deficit? I thought you were a Republican. Hmmph! But you do have five boys. And they LIE.
9:20. 54% of these people are not taxed at the corporate rate. How do they live? Oh oh, Obama brought up math. Romney will have to bring up geography, maybe recess. I see Obama's still cutting taxes. We'll all be living tax-free, eventually. Now a Clinton shout. Boy, that speech was something, huh? Ah, new "definition of small business." A socialist one. It doesn't include Donald Trump, who is calling in favors now, demanding to be allowed to attend the next debate from a giant desk at the back of the stage, with a gong or buzzer.
9:23. Romney said Obama was right about something. What a gent! But now he's telling us the President wants this guy in St. Louis to go from 35% to 40% in taxes. And that's over 50% if you're in St. Louis and you know Mitt Romney. Jobs! Jobs! Did you all catch that? Balanced budget, yeah sure, but jobs.
9:24. Obama can say "trillions" with a straight face. Oh he's good. Also, he's juuuuust starting to get into the Bush years. If Romney doesn't behave he'll bring out that Bush impersonator who used to be so popular on Leno.
9:25. Romney should have demanded a microphone. A second microphone, because he can afford it. Well, he got to talk more, and give us some more of that high-speed accounting yak that will sweep him to victory... oh wait, food stamps! You hear that, North Carolina? [cameras shows white hands crumpling transcript]
9:28. Romney has math too: Either you raise taxes, cut spending, or you "grow the economy." Surprise! There is an easy solution! He'll cut Obamacare! And Jim Lehrer! I'm kinda warming to him. AND... he's going to combine some agencies. That sounds cool. I'd like to see Defense and the National Endowment for the Arts combined into some kind of Voltron of bombs and urine-soaked crucifixes.
9:30. Obama cut stuff too, like war and ignorance. Hmm, that sounds reasonable. Oh, and Eisenhower. And look, Obama knows he's doing well in this great country of ours. He must be hoping Romney will tell us all we're 47% again.
9:31. I support Simpson Bowles for someone else. Yeah, yeah, I took care of that. Oh yeah, well you created a bunch of debt. People don't understand that I'm a tax-cutter and he's raising taxes, albeit hypothetical, and it's killing people in the future, like in 12 Monkeys.
9:34. Romney doesn't want to go down the path to Spain, unless it goes to Majorca on a private yacht.
9:36. Romney = ExxonMobil and corporate jets. And shipping jobs overseas. Romney smiles, realizing that if he loses he can bathe in the blood of his Vietnamese slaves, so who needs it.
9:38. America was not built on ten-year-old schoolbooks. If the schoolbook lobby is screwed, we're all screwed.
9:39. But that oil and gas
9:40. The basic structure of Social Security is sound, and Obama is sure Romney agrees. (Go ahead, Governor, after this nice grandmother story it won't sound so good.) Now Obama philosophizes that entitlements are actually things we're entitled to. I thought the Return of Reverend Wright tape was supposed to put an end to this sort of thing.
9:43. Yeah, Romney's no dummy. Social Security is sac. Ro. Sanct. Michelle Malkin and Erick Erickson hold hands and jump into the Grand Canyon. Also, Obama's cutting Medicare to pay for this Obamacare which has nothing to do with medicine.
9:45. "If you're 54, 55, you might want to listen." Gasp!
9:47. Obama's trying this Clinton-explainer thing where he tells us how vouchers are a rip-off, but he's not as good at it so he brings in his grandmother again. But he's using the AARP for support -- that's a Soviet organization committed to Early Bird anti-colonialism.
9:48. Did you hear Romney, grandpa? He's not going to kill you!
9:49. If I don't like Medicare, I'd rather destroy it and get my own high-premium plan and take ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS DOWN WITH ME.
9:51. Does it seem to you people as if this low-intensity thing is just making viewers sort of zone out? You probably don't realize I've been blogging the 1988 debate for three stanzas. Ha ha, made ya look.
9:52. Can we have an ad of Romney saying "regulation is essential"?
9:54. This guy sure likes regulations.
9:55. Well, see what you did, Romney, now Obama gets to talk about Wall Street as if he's the sheriff instead of the madame at the whorehouse.
9:56. On Dodd-Frank: Everything you want to do to punish big business hurts small business. It's like big business has a gun to small business' head. You make one false move and he'll shoot!
9:58. Well, Romney avoided saying "death panels." And he's onto small business again. This is as close to coherent argument as he's gotten. But then he says Romneycare was good because it was state-level, which is like saying The Avengers would have been better if it had a budget of $20,000 and starred Frank Stallone. (Yeah, I know.)
10:00. Obama seems to have missed this gambit and is praising Romneycare, which will allow Romney to come back if he's smart enough.
10:03. He's not smart enough. He's just praising the shit out of Romneycare. No one could believe he's against Sociamalized Medicine on principle, so to buy his argument, you have to believe he's going to do something similar but better. He's sure not campaigning as a smash-the-state type. How's that an alternative to a sitting President?
10:06. Which is why Obama is asking what he's going to replace it with.
10:07. "Free people and free enterprise." I see Cletus and Festus at the ole Doctorin' Shack, using their wits and freedom to figure out how to remove a tumor with a whittlin' knife. (Romney's naming big hospitals, but they all take gummint money.)
10:10. I thought Obama was just vamping, but with this "details" schtick he seems to be thinking pretty well on his feet. Romney comes back with Reagan and O'Neill, which has already been played; also, the old Democratic House was full of venal grifters, God bless 'em, who could be bought -- infinitely preferable to the block-everything, scorched-earth lot we have now.
10:12. Okay, I'm gonna use my own bipartisan President -- Abraham Lincoln! Who was a tax-and-spend liberal. Math and science teachers, blah blah... that pained grimace Romney's been working isn't working for me. He seems to be waiting for a wind machine.
10:17. Romney loves teachers -- they're in the Constitution! So too are other unfortunates. And here, with Obama, we have trickle-down socialism. Say, that's good, trickle-down socialism -- why didn't Romney think of that? Call me! My rates are reasonable!
10:19. Obama's filibustering, because he thinks we haven't heard enough about his successful programs yet. But I suspect average Americans are tuning that out; it doesn't matter how other people are faring. Poor Romney, he wants to know why Obama's sacrificing education to the environment. Who cares about the environment if we're not well-educated enough to enjoy it? Better we have a firm scientific foundation for our global warming denialism as we're drowned by molten icecaps.
10:24. "You've been great, Jim." What a suck-up!
10:25. Oh Christ, bi-partisanship? Isn't Romney's speech the same one Bush gave when he came out of Texas? Obama punts and talks about the middle class, which is probably smart, considering everyone now believes if the guys in The Defiant Ones were a Democrat and a Republican instead of black and white, they would have killed one another in the first ten minutes.
10:30. Obama: Detroit! Loopholes! Fight every single day! Vote for more of the same! Romney: I'm concerned about America! Middle-class squeeze! 12 million new jobs! Romneycare not Obamacare! Don't worry, I'll preserve the military-industrial complex!
Can they both lose?
UPDATE. I see by the Internet that media people think Romney won this debate, by which I assume they mean that they are smitten with his boyish charm. I have as low an opinion of my fellow Americans as the next rootless cosmopolitan, but even I can't see them falling for this. That leaves only one alternative: Roseanne Barr for President. Hey, at least I can live with myself!
UPDATE 2. Shots fired! Commenter mds: "That's Rosanne Arnold. As far as I know, she still hasn't released her long-form divorce certificate."